The #GIJOE365 project came to fruition because of two key factors:
For approximately the past year-and-a-half I had been mulling over the idea of doing a 365 art project, like for example, a drawing-a-day type of thing. I had basically been doing a drawing-a-day since October 1st 2015 already because of doing a “BeardTober” project, a “Movember” project, and then a Christmas Advent project. I liked the idea of carrying onwards into 2016 getting myself to draw each day, especially where the start of the year can be kind of uninspired sometimes.
On top of that I have been wanting to do some kind of "homage project" for G.I. Joe for a long time. I had been actively thinking about it for nearly 2yrs before the start of this project, in fact. When I say "actively thinking about it" what I mean is that I had the idea in my head that I wanted to do SOMETHING to pay tribute to the Joe toyline and it’s influence on my childhood, but didn't quite know exactly what yet. So it was just sort of on a “shelf in my brain,” sitting there. Several months ago I at least figured out that I wanted to chronologically capture every Joe figure in SOME sort of art-style. So I started by creating a massive spreadsheet with 300+ Joes and various attributes of each.
So those were the ingredients that got the project GOING, and now I should say what this project is ACCOMPLISHING for me:
This website is meant to be a fun way for you to explore all the G.I. Joe figures I add in a totally unique way: grouping, sorting, and filtering.
The various categories and attributes are essentially just what I have decided on for the chronology of the toyline. For example, I thought it would be really cool to easily see all the “snow” figures with just the click of a button. As far as I know, no other website dedicated to G.I. Joe does this. Have fun with it! Experiment! For example, how many lady drivers are there? Or, how many Cobra mail-in figures are there so far?
I started creating my own icons to represent the various categories and am still refining and developing those as I go. But the goal is (as mentioned in the “about the project” section above) clarity and simplicity.
I’m very lucky to have the experience and skills for web dev so that I am able to shape the “container” for my own art on the web, from mobile to desktop. I knew what I WANTED the website to be able to do, and it’s still a bit of a work in progress as I add more categories of the figures (soon we’ll have Destro’s Iron Grenadiers) and make tweaks here and there.
Beyond bringing some fancy sorting and filtering to the mix, I am also trying to utilize other web techniques to provide some fun interactive extras like the COLOUR CHANGING ZARTAN I created. Once we get around to his brother and sister, they will be added as well.
My name is Christopher Hemsworth. Yep. Chris Hemsworth. Nope, not the actor guy, so let’s just get that outta the way because that’s the story of my life every since that guy started making movies. ANYWHO…
I am an artist, designer, illustrator and the creator of the webcomic Dear Inner Demons. I am based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada.
I was 5 when the first series of the “Real American Hero” line was released, so I was experiencing G.I. Joe at the perfect ages as it was being released through the following years in the 80s. Despite being a Canadian the “Real American Hero” G.I. Joe series had a profound effect on my creative development as a child. In retrospect when I think on it now I realize that the patriotic aspect essentially had no bearing on my love for the toyline. I think that is a testament to the incredible design and character development. Which is what this project is a tribute to!
Drawing was my first passion of life. I am an only-child so my imagination and toys were my entertainment, and I was perfectly content. I remember drawing figures in my sketchbook at age 9 and trying to design my own, inspired by the Joe figures I had. SIDENOTE: I will try and find that old sketchbook and post some of the drawings.
Tackling a year-long project like this is daunting to say the least! I needed to set myself up for success as best as I could, without “cheating” so to speak - no tracing, for example. So I spent a lot of time thinking about how to create some sort of layout / template to adhere to, to keep things focused.
The first thing I did is spent some time designing a stylized mannequin. I knew I wanted to draw the figures “straight-on”, but like I said above, I didn’t want anything to be traced, so the mannequin I created was stylized - sharp angles, etc. It went through several iterations. Part of this project is about learning as I go, about myself, and my approach. I started series 1 with the feet pointed outwards because I didn’t want to draw them straight-on and have them look like stumps. I came to regret how extreme the angle was after series 1 and altered it for series 2. Subsequently, each series I would tweak the mannequins a little bit each time. Part of my line of thinking with this was that the figures themselves also saw changes to the design through the years (ball joint for neck, swivel arm, etc). Having said that, I have come to hate the feet position in series 1 that I created and am going back and changing them.
The layout was very tricky to dial-in but eventually I found a solution. I knew that prominence needed to be given to figure area, obviously, but wanted to capture some “extras.” I also knew that for posting on Instagram as well as viewing on mobile devices square format would be ideal. SO… I started there, and divided the square into thirds - two-thirds for the figure, and one-third for the side area. That was a good start, and then I knew I wanted some key things to be captured - number in the series of my project, the figures name, which “side” they are on (cobra, or joe), etc. One tricky thing was to make sure the longest names would fit at the bottom without changing the size of the type, so I referenced my spreadsheet! Haha.
Once I had the main layout figured out, I had to think about what I wanted to do in the side panels. The main thing I knew was that because the figure area was adherent to a somewhat rigid template, i wanted the side areas to be more “free” and expressive. Then I decided I wanted to feature some of the gear that comes with the package figures, and that lead to featuring some aspect of the vehicles for the vehicle drivers. This has evolved a bit over the course of weeks, and now I sometimes create very different and dynamic images of certain figures and often try to highlight some unique aspect of my favourite figures.
I also decided to create different custom icons to represent different specialties and characteristics, which mostly started with wanting to distinguish between vehicle drivers versus the packaged figures. That lead to wanting to note the mail-in figures, and then from there it grew into figures with animal companions, and then female figures, and all the elements etc etc. This is an ever-changing and growing aspect of the project, but is based on wanting to group and sort the figures in a unique way that hasn’t been done elsewhere.
I think I should point out that what I’m trying to capture here is more about the plastic figure, than the characters as they were portrayed in other media like comics and the cartoon show. For me this project is all about the figures. So essentially this is my artistic representation of the action figures themselves, stylized, and no, not exactly proportionate or copied. Having said that, I think you’ll find that all the details are quite accurately captured.
There are plenty of amazing resources online for you to learn more about G.I. Joe and I will mention a few of those at the end of this section.
For those of you that don’t know, G.I. Joe “A Real American Hero” was a massively successful toy line launched by Hasbro in 1982 and it continued through to 1994. The G.I. Joe line continued after 1994 but 1982-1994 marks the “Real American Hero” run.
Initially, the first series (1982) of figures had “straight” arms, with just a hinge point at the elbow. Then in 1983 Hasbro introduced the “swivel arm battle grip” which put an additional point of articulation in the arm. Subsequently they re-released all original 16 figures from 1982 with the new figures in 1983, all figures complete with the new swivel point. Hasbro really set the bar for figure design and engineering.
Other passionate folks have devoted loads of their time to documenting and archiving all things related to the G.I. Joe toy line so at this point rather than talking at length about it myself I will point you to these resources:
Sites to check out to learn more:
Particular points of interest (IMO):
I’ll add more to this list as things come to mind!